My Joy and I were at the Michiana MCC Relief Sale for about three and a half hours on Saturday, Sept 26, 2015. She went to see the quilt auction; I went to see people. (To see a youtube description of the relief sale click here. )
The first couple we met on the way into a food tent was the daughter of Chester Wenger and the son of Norman Shank, retired treasurer of Eastern Mennonite Missions. (If you don’t remember Chester click on link above.) Wenger and Shank were my peers and are friends. The Wenger half of the couple is a learned person, the president of Anabaptist Mennonite Bibilical Seminary. I had not thought to meet her and her husband at the sale. Yet, there they were happily mingling with fellow Anabaptists.
After purchasing a meal of rice and beans, I sat at a picnic table to enjoy it. A young man sat down across the table from me. His name was Brent. As we talked I learned that he was the grandson of the first Amish bishop in Sarasota, Florida. I said, Menno? He said “yes”. I told him that I had been a Mennonite bishop in Sarasota, and that Menno and I had been friends. We talked about his Aunt Irene and Uncle Harold whom I know.
When I sat down next to a supply of free coffee, seated nearby were two Old German Baptist couples. I told them that I knew an Old German Baptist in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania by the name of Hess. Their faces brightened as they asked, Dr. Hess?. Yes, I said, Dr. Hess the elder delivered my daughter in 1947.
Michiana is home to Anabaptists with convictions about faith and practice so deep that they divide. The Old Fool decries these infantile divisions that blunt the mission of Jesus in the world. So, I was pleased that the relief sale drew together varieties of Amish, Conservative Mennonites, not so conservative Mennonites, Brethren in Christ and Brethren with the noble purpose of giving relief in times of difficulties caused by wars between nations, tribal conflicts or natural disasters.
The Old Fool has a limited perspective. It looks to him that conservative Anabaptists provide much of the muscle for a constructive response to world difficulties while the academic community provides much of the vision for the future.
I heard the vision on Sunday, the day after the sale. James Brenneman, President of Goshen College and a scholar of the Old Testament, preached the college’s home coming sermon on world communion Sunday at the College Mennonite Church. The sermon supports the Old Fool’s belief that academia provides the vision for the survival of the church (and the world.)
If you wish, Click here to hear the worship hymns led by Rebecca Slough from the AMBS faculty, and click here and skip forward 36 minutes to hear the introduction of James Brenneman and a powerfully unique sermon from the book of Judges.